Well, they certainly did not ask my permission. It’s all just as well, because if they had I most certainly would not have given it. But really! It is just barely the middle of August, there is still a lot of Iowa summer left, and those silly birds have already pulled up stakes, loaded their wagons and headed off to that mysterious place where Robins go when they leave my town and my trees.


Not that they usually ask for my permission for anything they do in ‘my town’ and in ‘my trees.’ The males arrive in late winter and set up shop. One of the first things they do is decide who gets the choice tree outside my bedroom window; decide who gets to sing me his morning song; decide who gets to wake me each morning and set up my summer schedule. I mean, pretty presumptive of them!


And so, he sits there and does his chittering song at the first hint of dawn, faithfully, every morning, rain or shine; and totally irrespective of any mood I may be in. I mean; what does he know about my desire to sleep another hour on some given morning. And then, after singing his silly song, (faithfully, every morning, rain or shine,) one morning, in the middle of August, with a lot of summer still left, he just quits, cold turkey, becomes a snow bird, rounds up his family, and is gone. One morning, in the middle of August, the window is open, the fan is off, the birch tree is still there, the sparrows chitter, they chitter all the time, it means nothing; the mourning dove still sits on top of the light pole across the street and coos to his bride, he coos at any hour of the day; but My Robin’s song is gone. I wake up thinking I must have slept through his alarm but after three mornings in a row I know the truth, the voice of my assigned robin is no more.


I keep wondering, is this how life works? We arrive without requesting, or receiving permission either, we set off on the stage of life and say our piece, we play the assigned parts: And then some morning, with us thinking there’s still a lot of summer left, we find the curtain has dropped, our voice has been stilled, and we go off to our “long home, and the mourners go about the streets.”


The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved. Jeremiah 8:20

A minister of the gospel, while on his way to a funeral, stopped by to visit a member of his church, an old widow woman. The old lady had made several sausages and she was quite proud of them – they were so nice, so round and so sweet. She insisted the preacher should take a piece home to his family. After several pleas, the minister gave permission, and the lady wrapped a portion of sausage in a cloth and placed it in the spacious pocket of his vestment. So supplied, the minister then made his way to the graveside service.

During the ceremony at the grave a hungry dog detected the sausage and promptly traced it to the minister’s pocket. This of course created a big disturbance as the minister had to repeatedly fend it off with some well placed kicks. After the service at the graveside, the preacher and the mourners moved to the church for the funeral sermon. With the sermon over, a brother affected by the service approached the stairs to the pulpit and sought attention by tugging at the minister’s vestment. The minister, still thinking of the dog and what was in his pocket, picked up his foot, made a powerful thrust and pushed the poor brother down the stairs. Afterward, looking down and realizing what his effort had accomplished, he apologized; “I must confess and can no longer hide what’s going on. I have a sausage in my pocket and, for the whole time that I’ve been here, a dog has been trying to snatch it away.”

One can only imagine the effect this had on the mourners; the sorrowing was displaced with laughter as everyone left the service.

(Translated from an old German Almanac by Jonas Borntreger. 5/2/2013)

In order for any local congregation of the church of Jesus Christ to reach its maximum effectiveness it needs to stand in direct opposition to the “consumer oriented” mindset that often pervades our society. Church is not a democracy; it does not exist by the people, of the people, and for the people. The church is the church of KING JESUS. The church has a mission; a mission to fulfill the coming of HIS KINGDOM;” doing HIS WILL in the earth as it is being done in Heaven.” In this church we are servants – slaves even – who are totally divested of our own rights, and who patiently wait, standing quietly in the corner of the room, to attend to HIS every need. Paul said, “we are not our own, bought with a price, we therefore glorify God.”

If we take a somewhat cursory glance at ourselves we might frequently see our spoiled behaviors. We often require our pastors to handle us with kid gloves; and we walk out rather than yielding ourselves to biblical discipline. We have often developed the opinion that church is a vehicle for obtaining “our best life yet.” We have allowed ourselves to believe that church exists to provide for everything from healing Aunt Nellie’s Bursitis to – after we have wrung out the last dregs of this life – providing a fantastic fire escape plan for us when we die. We shop for our religious experiences the same way we shop for our cars, our furniture, and our fashions. We try to keep our young people in our congregations by offering Holy Ghost Highs; we strive to be “seeker friendly;” and we try to design programs to meet everyone’s needs. In short, we give them everything they ask for and then we wonder why they wander at the first hint of something that requires dedication and perseverance.

Contradicting our approaches, Jesus often challenged the people who engaged him. “Birds have nests,” he said, foxes have holes; I have no place to lay my head. Why would you want to follow me?” Our king said, “Oh, so you want to be my disciple, fine! Here’s your first job. See that cross lying there. Grab it, drag it up that hill, and place it beside mine; and after that, go and practice loving my disciples to the same extent that I have loved you. Be truly one with me and with each other, and when that love blazes brightly the world out there will see it and recognize that you are my disciples. That’s the only outreach program that I desire for MY CHURCH”

Jonas Borntreger
Feb. 2013


An insult is the involuntary exchange of social currency. It is a robbery of human dignity and accomplishes this even while it also, at the same time, depreciates the person issuing the insult. In order for our social networks to function properly, all insulting behaviors need to be recognized and confronted. There are two reasons why I believe this is so.

First, an insulted person who vainly tries to simply ignore the insult will usually be unable to do so because of resentment growing inside of himself. The social debt is trying to demand repayment and will often manifest itself in vindictive activities, or in a parting of ways with the insulting individual. An insulted person needs to have the option of either collecting against the debt by obtaining an apology or by choosing to outright forgive it. I can’t forgive what I claim isn’t present and thus, both of these options are closed to me if the insult is never confronted.

The other reason for confronting insults is for the benefit of the insulter himself. An un-confronted insult can never be repaid by the person issuing the insult because for him also, it does not exist, even while it is devaluing him and stripping him of his dignity. Once confronted, the insulter now has his options also. After confrontation, he is now allowed to choose if, how, or when to repay his debt by making amends, but he can no longer continue cowardly hiding behind his misdeeds.

Jonas J Borntreger
Jan. 2013

It is one of those abnormal days that normally come to my small town.

Before the dawn I slip the bonds of my bed and merge into the darkness outside my front door. Southwest of us there is the constant strobe from lightening – a fitting sequel to yesterday’s un-normally pleasant fall day. Before the dawn – lights come on – briefly. A working mother hurries her two across the street. She pushes them; she pushes the fob in her hand; car lights blink twice. Half a block away a porch light also comes on; a woman kisses a man in a doorway; the door closes and the light goes back out. The lightning keeps flashing.

The early mornings in my small town have sounds. Three miles west of me a train signals as it approaches a crossing; down on Interstate Eighty, whining turbochargers kick in and ram air into the gluttonous throats of big diesel engines; a Killdeer makes its strident calls as it flies off somewhere down my street; in a field southeast of here an enormous reaping machine, behind some piercing lights, goes after several more early morning acres before the lightening yields to the rain.

The dawn is closer now; so also the lightening; so also the rain. The associated thunders now mix with the other sounds around me. The train now comes to my crossing, announces its presence, and rumbles past. The breeze picks up and the first drops fall; I move my contemplations inside my dwelling. I move to safety – I move, anticipating the normal. The thunder now rumbles beyond me also and soon the sun comes out. I sit in fellowship at my breakfast table and raise my orange juice glass. L’chei-im – I toast for life.

It is an abnormal day in my small town. Somewhere close to me someone will not rise with the dawning. Somewhere, the struggle continues for a few more breaths, a few more moments with loved ones, just a few more acres in the field of life. And then the gentle breeze brings on the rain. Somewhere the “grinders cease” but the rain will not. Two men will be together in a field, one will be taken and the other left. It is what normally takes place some of those early mornings in my small town.

Jonas Borntreger

This morning there was another debate over on Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed. Scot was reviewing a book written by one of the ‘scientific types’ about how he saw Christians and specifically the science/creationism debate. I felt compelled to walk into the fray with the following response. JJB

I hate this debate – I deplore it because I’m convinced that the genesis of the discussion is wrong from the get-go. I read science; I devour it voraciously. I could not conceive living on earth without an uber-compelling curiosity to know what makes our physical environment tick.

I am also an Evangelical Christian. I believe that in the beginning “God created.” By faith I understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God. Call me naive, but I can see absolutely nothing to be gained, either for this life or for the kingdom, by knowing precisely how or when that creation took place. I see absolutely no disagreement between my science and my religion. Furthermore, I have no desire to – believe it is wrong to – try and “square” my beliefs with my science. Our Mega/Creation Conferences; our Creation Museums; our blog debates, may serve a purpose for the already convinced among us, although, I sometimes even doubt that. They are not the biblically mandated tools for convincing the world.

When we enter religion debates with scientists we are playing against an opponent with a stacked deck. It’s a battle, ordained by God himself, to keep us from winning in that arena. If we Christians are in a “war-zone” between faith and science then it is a war of our own choosing. If God deems to hide his purposes from the wise and prudent and reveal himself only through faith, then why should we attempt to break the code and reveal his purposes to anyone through science? My Evangelical Christian mission is solely in sowing the seed of the word into whatever soil, and those that come to him still come because they believe that he is, and that he rewards those who diligently seek him.

Dear Fellow Christian:

Your recent posting on today’s social media concerning people who ‘speak in tongues’ was highly distressing to me. It is a pretty lofty position when someone claims to have a superior Bible knowledge, and by that knowledge adjudge an extremely high portion of the current Evangelical Christian Community as, (and I use the terms you used,) “a carnal and satanic show of the flesh,” “an evil and adulterous generation,” “apostate,” and “devoted to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,”

In your postings you use I Corinthians 13:8 as a ‘proof text’ for your claim that ‘tongues would cease.’ The same verse also states that knowledge would “pass away.” When I called you out on that, you claimed that the “knowledge” was in fact “prophetic knowledge” and that, yes, it also was gone. This seems as an extreme oversight on the part of God; especially in this evil world that seems so sorely lacking in spiritual knowledge.

An exegetical look at I Corinthians 13 has clearly established that faith, hope, prophecy, knowledge, and tongues are all five closely linked together in this chapter, and would indeed pass away; pass away when “that which is perfect” comes. Unhooking three of the five and making them pass away before the other two is an old trick that some of God’s ministers came up with a long time ago. Unfortunately, those ministers somehow missed getting the word back upstairs to headquarters. In the meantime the Holy Spirit pays no attention and keeps right on giving unction to the church by using the same faith building tools that have worked for the last 2,000 years. Signs, wonders, and spiritual gifts are still dealt out severally as HE chooses. They still operate through humble people, and are still effective in illuminating the written word of God and getting kingdom results. The letter still kills and the Spirit still brings life.

Not knowing you personally, I at first thought to dismiss your posting as just another thoughtless rant. But then I stopped: What is the possibility that you are perhaps sincere and that your outcry as actually (and unwittingly,) a call for help. Should I hide my candle under a bushel at a time like this? I should at least say what I can. I should at least pray for you.

But then how should I pray?

Knowing your aversion to Spirit anointed utterances and your claimed esteem for the “written word;” here, straight from the apostle Paul and his writings to the “first-love-lost” church; here is my prayer for you.

…remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…. Amen

There is just something about kneeling on the ground, smelling the fresh earth, and trying to nourish growing things.

Or maybe it’s the green plastic water bucket with KB carefully stenciled on the side. That, and the new garden tools bought with a birthday gift card from my children.

Or than maybe it is about being stuck in the generation between someone’s past and some other people’s future.

Maybe it all came down to some old woman living in a nursing home; spitting five plum pits into a napkin and thinking, “With the right care those pits could become an orchard.”

Somehow, almost in another lifetime; I found myself (almost resentfully,) responsible for the care and nourishment; the future, of five plum pits; and – even being held to a degree of accountability for them. And she, who couldn’t remember whether the pits came from raw or cooked plums; couldn’t remember what I had just told her about how I was caring for them; somehow remembered that she had given something to me that was important to her and kept asking me, over and over again, month after month, visit after visit, whether I had planted them yet.

And so it came to pass that almost exactly a year ago I took five plum pits out of the freezer and lovingly placed them in the ground beside my red raspberry bushes and carefully watched over them for an entire summer with urgent fervency. The fervency was heightened soon after the planting when we also planted that dear person’s body on a hill overlooking a field of growing things. We planted her there awaiting a resurrection day. I watched for life for an entire summer and sadly saw nothing.

This morning!

This morning, with my mother’s green plastic bucket and my children’s birthday-present garden tools, kneeling on the grass, pulling weeds from my raspberry bushes, and caring for growing things; this morning, almost pulling it out for one of the weeds, I spied one slender red/purple stalk with perhaps ten delicate leaves; something that was not there last summer and was most assuredly not one of the weeds with which I was familiar.

I am not sure what a plum tree seedling is supposed to look like but if you were here I would gladly take you back next to the alley. I would be glad to let you vote whether you thought the carefully protected thin little stem and its little green leaves was actually a young plum tree. Together, we might voice opinions about whether it might someday become something. What is not up for vote is the effect that young plant had on me. What is not up for debate is “Whispering hope, like the voice of an angel. This morning, kneeling in the grass amidst growing things, that little sprig of life was “making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.”

And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Matt 22:12  KJV


Marlene recently asked me a question about the man that was thrown from the wedding feast that Jesus tells about in Matthew chapter twenty-two. Her probing also got me to mulling over this seemingly strange incident.


The background in this Parable that Jesus told is about a king who made a sumptuous feast to celebrate the nuptials of his son. When the servants were sent to retrieve the invited guests they were met with a variety of excuses and outright disdain. After dealing with the first invitees, the king commanded the servants into the hinterlands for a no-holds-barred effort to fill his house. Why then, after all this activity, would a guest be humiliated before the other guests and thrown out for the seemingly minor offence of not being properly dressed? The answer begs us to dig deeper.


In the Ancient Near East what one was wearing was considered very important. The people classes were extremely stratified and instantly recognized by their apparel. A beggar dressed like a beggar, and a harlot like a harlot. Bridegrooms and brides; married women and virgins were easily identified as well as merchants, farmers, political leaders, lawyers, tax collectors, scribes and Pharisees. Dressing out of your class was looked upon as an attempt to deceive and viewed with disdain. When the king invited his guests he added the proviso that all should abandon their positions. The humble were exalted and the high were made low. The garments included in the invitation specified that all should arrive at the feast classless, with no other status than to be the honored guest of the bride and groom.


Understanding this, we might more easily understand the disdain shown by the first invitees. Can’t you just imagine the reaction a scribe might have when shown the garment he was expected to wear? “Well who does that king think he is? For sixty-five long years I’ve been the head of the royal library. I have carefully copied, filed and maintained His Majesties’ documents and he expects me to show up dressed no differently than one of his lowly stable hands. I’m telling you, he can just take his silly invitation, and the robe with it, and shove it.”


This brings us to the man that did show up. While we’re imagining, perhaps we might divine the following exchange also.


“I have heard that the king places a special emphasis on humility If I show up dressed as a pauper he would most likely extend special recognition and honor my self righteous attempts at pleasing him.”


The Great King has always been a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  He hates pride, and recognizes it in all of its many disguises. He began his cleansing career by banishing the Angel of Light from his presence. We should not marvel about the actions implied in this parable.




                                 By Unlisted
Jonas Borntreger

The other day Marlene and I were driving through some of our old haunts. As we approached a certain spot of the road, she reminded me about what is probably the most bizarre experience I ever encountered.

When Marlene and I were courting we were in a fever and stretched ourselves far beyond propriety and what was physically good for us. I would often get off from work, drive thirty-five miles, pick her up and drive another twenty miles to some church activity. Afterward, I would retrace the miles and often had a harrowing drive, late in the evening, for the last leg home. On one such night I kept drifting onto the gravel shoulder, waking up and correcting my course for the next several miles and then do it again. Finally, I was on the shoulder, approaching a concrete bridge banister, and not waking up. At the last moment a voice in the back seat sharply called my name. It was so real that I pulled onto the shoulder and got out of the car to check for someone in the backseat. The highway has been rebuilt and the banister replaced with a culvert, but forty-five years later I still feel a strong sense of awe as I approach that spot on the road.

I’m convinced that repentance was appropriate; I should not have tested the grace of God by my actions. I am however grateful that he looked beyond my faults and provided for my needs. This experience also confirms to me that He had his intention for me and for my family in mind and determined beforehand to bring it to pass for His purposes.

It’s ‘show-and-tell time. Tell of a time when you witnessed the supernatural providence of a merciful God in your life.

I recently watched a video where Floyd McClung answered the question, “What was the highlight of your life this past year?” After admitting that many would seem it strange, he said it was the funeral of his father.

His answer struck a responsive chord with me. I also had a part in an end-of-life service this past year. My mother”s home going last April was the climax of an humble and unselfish life. Being a participant as we watched a mother lead her extended family to the crossing, and then, without fear or complaining showed us, “This is how it’s done;” was fantastic beyond bounds.

If you care to comment; I would be interested to hear what was the highlight of your recent past.

Yea a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:35

In my reading this morning, I once again came across the concept about how unfairly Jacob treated young Joseph by presenting him with favor and a special coat. The author seemed to fault Jacob for “Promoting Joseph prematurely”. The writer was certainly not alone in the opinion expressed, and while this lesson may have value when raising children, (a concept, which I also sometimes question,) faulting Jacob seems to me to be short-sighted and ignores what I suspect may be an element of wisdom in Jacob’s dealing with his sons.

The basis of my suppositions is the activities which I see from my Heavenly Father, himself. As I study the scriptures I come up with a whole variety of examples where God seems to choose, and, rather arbitrarily, sets the stage for conflict among his children. The first of those examples is none other than with the first set of his children. Two young men bring an offering to him. How nice! He accepts one and rejects the other. How unfair! And it just goes on from there.

He gives Abraham and Sarah the promise of a special son and then holds out on fulfilling that promise until, driven to the point of desperation; Abraham takes matters into another woman’s bed and sets the stage for the Arab conflict that lasts to this day. Next, Abraham’s Daughter-in-law is told, “I reject your first child for the birthright blessing and instead pick the younger.” In case you miss the point, let me ramp it to the next level.

For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.
The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Duet. 7:6-8 KJV

So tell me mister! Why should a band of scruffy nomads get plunked down into a strategic area in the middle of the Middle East – and with a special promise like that?

It certainly doesn’t stop there:

God somehow gets a virgin pregnant, and puts her under the threat of being stoned. Next he claims that her offspring should be “His Only Begotten Son” He announces that son with a special star and an angel choir. This action trips a pagan king into mass executions; (Rachel, Abraham’s daughter-in-law, still weeps for her children.) and makes that special son a fugitive in Egypt. When the Heavenly Father next declares that son before the world, it is with the proclamation of a prophet, the descent of a dove, and a thundering voice from heaven, “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED. Jesus wore his own version of the many colored coat; walked a path of specialness; and followed a course that had no options short of leading straight to a Roman cross. Once again, God demonstrated that “His ways” and “His thoughts” are certainly not ours.

Somehow I suspect that Jacob knew; he was doing more than just spoiling a son.

Sometime in the later half of the fifties, when I was in the later half of my teens, I was parked at an intersection out in the country, in Calhoun County, Illinois, down towards St Louis. I had a stack of shiny tin buckets sporting a label that proclaimed; “Nothing is better for breakfast than hot cakes and sorghum.” I was on the business end – the final step of an outrageous enterprise. Business was slow; the afternoon was hot and boring when an enormously long, gaudy green, stretch limousine pulled up to the stop sign, the windows rolled down revealing the biggest bunch of tall, laughing black guys I had ever seen in one place.

“Sorghum – Get your sorghum here,” I called.

“Look at that kid. He’s selling sorghum for a living,” they hooted. “Yah, we dribble for a living.”

As the limo turned the corner, I memorized the words painted in big yellow letters down the side of it; “The Harlem Globetrotters.” At that time, and for several years afterwards, I had no idea what the Globetrotters actually did, or what “dribbling” was all about. Today, I find myself the head of a clan that is almost equally ignorant about the art of growing, cooking, and enjoying Pure Cane Sorghum Molasses.

My family plunged headfirst into the molasses business just as the business itself was in its final death throes. Today, almost all of the sorghum that is cooked is, more or less, a nostalgic hobby rather than a business. When our country was young, sorghum provided a ready source of sweetener. Throughout the Midwest, almost every community once had a sorghum mill and almost everyone had a patch of cane which was cut and taken to the mill to be turned into this sweet nectar. As we were getting ‘into molasses,’ molasses was increasingly being replaced by Karo Syrup and refined sugars. Today our craving for sweeteners is further fulfilled by little packets that have no sugar in them at all and by corn sweeteners, rolling, in long tank car trains, from large processing plants scattered across our land. Totally heedless of this trend, we never the less persisted through three seasons raising, cooking and marketing molasses.

As time goes by, I find that each fall I more wistfully desire to do it again. Maybe it is my own nostalgia; plain and simple. Maybe it is because I remember a dad and his son working together, pushing against our physical limitations and in three short years stretching the technological envelope of our enterprise; ‘Boldly, going where no one had gone before.’ Sometimes I rue that we only had three years at it and long to go back and finish the job we started.

The actual process of ‘cooking’ molasses requires a lot of energy to remove the moisture and reduce the juice into syrup. We had a saw mill and a cheap energy source in the form of slab wood. This idea only persisted the first year. Trying to get a consistent even heat under a large evaporator pan with wood that is sometimes Oak, sometimes Elm, and sometimes Hickory; wood that is sometimes wet and sometimes dry, was an art that we never completely mastered. The second season we switched to fuel oil. We installed a collection of burners salvaged from heating furnaces. This was much better but still the only way we had to regulate heat was adding and removing bricks from under each burner to move them closer or farther from the pan.

The third year we hit Bonanza! We learned that we could salvage light insulated fire brick from the scrap pile at a local refractory plant. From those brick we built a new fire pit. We got a big LP gas tank and installed gas burners. Now turning the heat up or down was as simple as turning a valve and opening or closing the air inlet at the burners. Back in those days there was an expression that was frequently heard: When something worked exceptionally well, someone would say, “Now you’re cookin with gas.” Who knows; we might have invented that little ditty.

The labor component was something that always seemed to get short shrift when Dad put together a business plan. It is one thing to see us get filthy rich off of the east three acres in the middle field. It is something else entirely to turn the plan into reality. Dad never took inventory and determined that there were some practical limits to how much free labor he could get out of his household. You always ran right up against the limits and at that point tried to invent a way around them. We might also have initiated the saying that ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’ During those three years we were certainly not bashful about invention.

First off, the cane had to be planted. We didn’t have a cane seed planter so; we’ll use the soybean plates instead. Never mind that that still put way too many seed in the ground. “As soon as the plants come up we will go through the field with hoes and thin out the weaker plants.” (When Dad used ‘we’ in that sense he was never referring to himself and the mouse he had in his pocket.) For one of the first inventions Dad took a set of planter plates to his favorite welding shop, had the holes welded shut and a new set of smaller, more properly spaced, holes machined in them. Sometimes my dad learned very fast.

There is a relatively narrow window in the fall when cane has to be harvested. If you start the process before the cane is ripe you lose a lot of sweetness. At the other end of the window, the juice in the cane will sour soon after the first hard frost. Harvesting cane in the conventional way was an intensely laborious process; and remember, we’re not talking about the common several rows at the edge of a truck patch; we’re talking about acres of the stuff.

Conventional sorghum cane harvesting required that you first remove the leaves. This was done with sharpened wooden paddles as you walked down the rows. Next you bent the stalks down and removed the grain heads with a machete. After that you chopped off the stalks and laid them orderly across a flat bed wagon for transport to the mill where the stalks were run between rollers and the juice was squeezed out of them.

One of the first rebellions against conventionalism was with the beheading process. The grain heads were animal feed. Why should they be scattered across the field and then later retrieved and fed to the cattle? We left them on. We laid the cane carefully across the wagon with the heads hanging over the edge. When we got to the mill, Dad took the chainsaw and neatly zipped off the heads in one fell swoop.

We next asked why the leaves needed to be removed. Convention said that something bitter would be squeezed out of them when they were pressed. Dad didn’t believe it. He grabbed several hands full of leaves and ran them through the mill. When there was no juice forthcoming he considered that conventional wisdom relegated to the myth bin. When we started pressing cane with the leaves on, we however soon learned that there was a downside to doing so. Instead of pressing something from the leaves the leaves actually soaked up a lot of the juice and reduced our yield. The next morning we brought in a load of cane while the dew was still on the leaves. The dew prevented the leaves from soaking up the juice and I never stripped the leaves from another stalk of cane. That’s what I call Win-Win.

We soon realized that our pioneering had removed the major obstacles to the biggest labor reduction invention of them all.

For many centuries farmers had typically brought their crops in from the field and then threshed or otherwise processed them. With the advent of our industrial era that started to change: More frequently now, farmers were taking their threshing equipment out into the field. Why couldn’t we do the same? It was an idea rife with audacity but that had never stopped us before. By our second season we were dragging the largest sorghum press that we could find right down the cane row and bringing only the juice to the plant to be processed. How we accomplished that resulted in the most ‘Rube Goldberg’ parade of farm machinery that you ever saw in your life.

To lead this parade we needed a tractor that would go extremely slow, so we built one. We started with the chassis and drive train of a thirties vintage Dodge truck. We next added another transmission in tandem with the one that was there. With both transmissions in a low gear we satisfied our ‘need for (no) speed.’

To cut the cane stalks and orient them for feeding through the press, we started out with a forage harvester. Farmers use forage harvesters for chopping row crops and blowing them into a wagon for silage. For our application we removed the blower/chopper wheel and pretty much left the rest of the machine intact. We installed an engine as a power source and added another set of wheels and an axle in back to support the tremendous weight of the mill. Next, the mill was mounted with its throat right where the chopper wheel had previously been. Shafts, bearings, chain drives and gears were supplied to tie it all together and make all of it turn the right way and at approximately the right speed.

A small pump in the catch basin under the mill gathered the precious juice and routed it to a tank trailer bringing up the rear.

When we bolted all this together and drug it to the field it even worked. (Sort of) Actually, it worked pretty well. We had some fine tuning to do with drive ratios etc. but it all wound up, in the end, being quite minor stuff. We were however not completely out of the woods. When we built our tractor it had too long a wheelbase to do a good job maneuvering in the field. It was also too light and often the weight of the mill picked up the tractor and set it down where it decided instead of the other way around.

The other downside was that we could no longer use the chainsaw for zipping off the heads. We were back to using the machete, a row at a time ahead of the mill. Dad made a substantial investment to correct those two problems prior to season three.

As far as I can remember, Dad, in his lifetime, only bought one piece of brand new drive equipment. It was a shiny red Massey Ferguson 35 tractor. We bought it special, with extra small wheels so it would go slower. It replaced the Dodge tractor. To remove the heads we were back to inventing. We mounted a conventional manure loader on the tractor. Above, and off to the side of the bucket, and in line with the cane row, we installed a short piece of sickle mower and powered it with a hydraulic motor. Now as we drove down the cane rows, we raised and lowered the loader to compensate for shorter or taller cane. The sickle cut off the heads and a chute directed them into the bucket. When the bucket was full of heads, the cavalcade would stop briefly, and the bucket would be rotated to dump the seeds in a pile in the field where they would later be collected.

By the third season our harvesting routine was pretty well established. With the dew on the leaves, Dad and I would hit the sorghum cane field around 4:00 A.M… By daylight we would have pressed a days worth of juice and have it deposited in a settling tank. In the meantime, the rest of the family would have done the chores and we would now sit down together for breakfast. After breakfast the pans were fired up and the cooking started. Around noon someone would bring out lunch and we ate on the fly. The cooking continued till dark when we retired to supper and a few hours of sleep before the routine started all over again.

That’s an awful lot of shiny buckets of sorghum. But no problem! After all, “Nothing is better for breakfast than hot cakes and sorghum.” Years later, after we ate or otherwise got rid of the last sorghum, I’m not sure that we thought so any more. But just maybe – for breakfast tomorrow morning – one more time for old times sake.

This morning Marlene and I were going through some of my old books. I pulled a German book from the shelf that was printed in 1896. It was a collection of youth stories written by S. B. Shaw emphasizing the value of prayer. She had me read one of the stories and I thought it would be fun to share my translation of it with you. This story teaches the value of being honest when dealing with our children.

A young lad was told by his mother not to play on some nearby sand dunes. “A bear once attacked and tore a child playing there,” she said. One day a playmate asked him to go play in the sand with him. “I can’t,” the first boy said, “I am scared of the bears.” “There are no bears in the dunes,” the lad replied. “Oh yes there are. My mama said so.”

As they were debating the preacher happened to walk by. They decided to ask him. “No,” the preacher replied, “There are no bears.” “But,” the first lad said, “My mother told me there were.”

“I am very sad that your mother told you so,” the preacher answered, “But there are no bears.”

The young lad started crying and ran straight home to his mother. “O Mamachen,” he called, “Did you tell me a lie?” Did you tell me there were bears in the dunes when there actually were none?”

The mother admitted her wrong but said she had told him so for fear that he would get lost in the dunes.

“But Mamaschen, it is so wrong to tell a lie.”

“I know it, Tommy, I know it,” she replied, with tears in her eyes. “We will now asked our loving Lord to forgive me and I won’t ever do it again.”

As they knelt together to pray, Tommy suddenly called out “Wait Mamachen, let me pray. You might neglect to tell the Lord the whole truth.”

There was weeping at my house last night. The old Morton Salt slogan came to mind. “When it rains, it pours.” Why does it seem that the things that trouble us “come in threes”? The obvious tip of the emotional iceberg for us today is the sudden removal from this life of a husband, father, relative and friend. We struggle, along with all who are involved, with the senselessness, the brutality, and the sheer enormity of the emotional gulf that is fixed. We find ourselves unable to cross over it. Our spirits make demands from God; demands that we know to be futile before we start. Into this chasm; a poem by Whittier. I hope it speaks to you as it did to me.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow Thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

Is it just me or what is all this effort to start celebrating Halloween earlier, and with ever more elaborate displays, each year? And then there’s the situation two blocks down the street from us…

Our neighbors two blocks down from us set up a Halloween display that is macabre, far beyond the normal bonds of propriety. They used life sized mannequins, scattered all over their yard, illustrating all sorts of murderous ghoulishness. Among the displays, there are three people hanging by their necks and a trailer where someone appears to be surgically removing people’s heads and hanging them upside down in his cabin. At it’s best, their display is an assault against a sense of decency for the citizens of our town. At it’s worst, it is demonically inspired and downright dangerous to the pliable spirits of the children that are expected to view their craft for the next six weeks.

What is the proper way for concerned Christians to respond to something like this? If I was as ‘wise as a serpent’ and as ‘harmless as a dove,’ how would I act in this matter? Marlene and I are praying that God will give us grace and wisdom in our dealing with this.

A recent reader of my blog asked if I was going to tell about some inventing which I once did for my employer while working in the big city. His request took me back quite a few years and caused me to do some thinking about a slice of my life previously left mostly undocumented.

Actually, the summer and fall of 1965 was a time that was very ‘seminal’ for me. Looking back, it is remarkable how certain periods of a person’s life more powerfully impacted the future and formed the basis for a whole lifetime’s worth of ideas, sentiments and activities. From the indistinct milky ooze of scattered experiences sometimes a substance is formed, bones grow in the womb, an entire new person emerges. Nineteen-sixty-five was such a time for me.

In the fall of 1965, a Buchanan County, Iowa, public school official and truant officer felt compelled to do his job. He had an entire county’s worth of citizens who ignored the fact that the state of Iowa required children to be formally educated in a school staffed with state certified teachers. As an appointed official, he apparently felt compelled to use the force of law and bring those Amish parents to heel. They could no longer snub their collective noses at his demands; enough was enough.

As the school season advanced there was all that messiness; there were arguments with lawyers, sheriff deputies and school officials; there were fines and imprisonments; and there were dramatic scenes in the newspapers and on the airwaves that awakened the conscience of an entire nation. Among those scenes we get a glimpse of Sarah Swartz, my dad’s first cousin, on her knees with her arms around a man’s legs and begging him not to put her three children on that school bus. In another, a newspaperman snaps a photo of Amish boys looking back over their shoulders as they fled across the field. Stepping up to lead the opposition forces was Dan Borntreger; a brother to my paternal grandfather.

While great-uncle Dan was defending the Amish-ness of his community, I was in Des Moines and, step-by-step, loosing the last vestiges of mine. With a conscientious-objectors military classification in my billfold, I had been assigned to two years of public service as an orderly in the X-Ray department at Iowa Methodist Hospital. I lived away from home, I rented a sleeping room on the 1100 block of 7th street; I drove a little blue Mercury Comet, and attended an Assembly of God church. I still dressed quite plainly, wore my old haircut and started wearing a necktie only after a buddy honored me by asking that I usher at his wedding. (I actually had no idea how liberating it could be to tie something around your neck.) While I was learning how to interact with my new social environment I also maintained contact with my, sometimes-on sometimes-off, Amish girl friend.

Like Johnie-Five in Short Circuit, my vacuous mind demanded ‘input.’ I read voraciously. I signed up for a night class in Freshman English at Drake University; I wrote term papers; and, (most significantly,) learned how to use a public library. “You mean there are entire buildings filled with literally thousands of books where people can go and freely select from its precious trove?”

About six months into my two-year stint at IMH, my boss offered me the job of darkroom technician. It seems that the old geezer who had previously done the job had a habit of somehow becoming progressively inebriated as each day advanced. After discovering where he had stashed his bottle, my boss had to let him go. Was this ever a boon to my mind! What is the magic that takes place inside a dark box that allows some Silver Halide crystals to become ‘fixed’ while allowing others to be washed from the gelatinous surface of film? I had to know. Not unlike my predecessor, I also had an addiction. My habit was satisfied during the afternoon work lull by grabbing the technical X-Ray training manuals the students in the department left lying around, and reading.

In short order I understood the concept of E over IR; I learned about, conductance and resistance; I started becoming familiar with amplifiers, rectifiers, Farads, Ohms, Photo-Fluorescence, radiation half-life and Roentgens. When that year’s students took their finals in X-Ray technology, I asked the instructor for a copy of the test. Without ever attending one of their classes, I scored a C+. A ‘life work’ die was cast, a train was on the tracks and all the stops were out.

The hospital sent me to a four-day training course to understand and maintain the big processing machine that I had been feeding film to. One of the first things I realized upon my return from school was that rinse water flowed continuously through the machine all the time, even when it was idle. Could a timer be inserted in the wiring to turn off the rinse water valve as soon as no film was in the machine? With encouragement from my supervisor, I bought a timer and had it installed per my schematic. The results were beautiful and saved the hospital many hundreds of gallons of water during the life of the machine. My second invention is a little harder to explain.

Methodist Hospital was on the cutting edge of imaging carotid artery blockages by taking a series of exposures as opaque media flowed through the critical area. The challenge in doing this successfully was to rotate the patient so that the equally opaque bone structure in the neck did not block out the desired view of the arteries. I was given an article in a medical journal which showed how some doctors in Europe had developed a work-around for overcoming this problem. They compensated with a procedure done in the darkroom and called their method ‘subtraction technique.’ Would I take the article, my boss wanted to know, and see if I could imitate their procedure. The result was a fun ride involving a shadow box, a light dimmer, a timer, a variety of film types and weeks of experimentation. Subtraction Technique is now done on a routine basis with a computer in a modern X-Ray department. When I left Methodist Hospital the following spring, we were the only hospital in America known to be using the method and the doctors loved it.

Amid all this heady stuff a ‘young man’s fancy lightly turned to thoughts of love.’

I took a couple days vacation and drove to Arkansas. The girl in question was approaching the end of a similar two-year voluntary service assignment at a nursing home. Would she be willing, I wanted to know, to get past the sticking point, move to Des Moines and start putting the final plans in place for a life together. On the way back, euphoric over the trip and weary over the drive, I flipped on the radio.

“This is WHO Radio and this is Farm Forum with your hosts Lee Cline and Duane Ellet.”

Caller #1: “I want to know why they don’t leave those Amish alone. It is terrible how they are being treated.”

Caller #2: “I’ll tell you why they don’t leave them alone. They’ve left them alone too long and its time to straighten them up.”

On and on, Minute by minute, mile by mile, the litany went on. Suddenly it seemed as though I might also have some small part to contribute to the conversation. Look here is phoneage, can any forbid dialing an 800 number?

The operator heard my name, made earnest inquiry about my family lineage, alerted the hosts and moved my connection to the top of the call queue. For the rest of the show, sitting at a payphone near a busy intersection in northern Missouri, I was the honored guest of WHO Radio. All subsequent callers were patched through to me. Heady stuff!

When I got back to work the next morning, my boss had a couple of surprises waiting for me. For the first one, I was instructed to call Lee Cline in his office. Mr. Cline said that their switchboard was swamped after the previous day’s show with callers who wished to talk to me. Would I be willing to be a guest in their studio? A short time later I was given a tour of the WHO facilities and then brought in as the featured guest. Partway through the show my boss sprang his second surprise. He called into the show and explained about the things I had invented. Back at the hospital, I was met by the Administrator and a reporter from the Des Moines Register and Tribune. I was presented with a check and I told my story to the press.

The invitations came fast. For the next several months I was kept quite busy. I spoke in churches, schools and various organizations. The activity, perhaps, offset some of the pain. The girl never came to Des Moines. The next time I heard from her, it was from northern Indiana; from the far side of the ‘sticking point.’

When I consider the last forty-three years, that short slice of my life has undoubtedly influenced me more than any other similar period. Forever free from a shackling social relationship I now sought the life partner that God had ordained for me; my command of language was pointed toward continual improvement; and my ability to develop my electrical skills and use them in my employment has served me and my family well for quite a few years. I thank God for the things I was permitted to learn during my one brief moment in the sun.

The mystic Catholic, Thomas Merton, once noted that: “If you find God with great ease, perhaps it is not God that you have found.”

Another good essay. Written by Oscar Hammerstein (of Rogers and…) – Here’s “Happy Talk”.
This I believe…(as published in the 1950’s)

I have an unusual statement to make. I am a man who believes he is happy. What makes it unusual is that a man who is happy seldom tells anyone. The unhappy man is more communicative. He is eager to recite what is wrong with the world, and he seems to have a talent for gathering a large audience. It is a modern tragedy that despair has so many spokesmen, and hope so few.

I believe, therefore, that it is important for a man to announce that he is happy even though such an announcement is less dramatic and less entertaining than the cries of his pessimistic opposite. Why do I believe I am happy? Death has deprived me of many whom I loved. Dismal failure has followed many of my most earnest efforts. People have disappointed me. I have disappointed them. I have disappointed myself.

Further than this, I am aware that I live under a cloud of international hysteria. The cloud could burst, and a rain of atom bombs could destroy millions of lives, including my own. From all this evidence, could I not build up a strong case to prove why I am not happy at all? I could, but it would be a false picture, as false as if I were to describe a tree only as it looks in winter. I would be leaving out a list of people I love, who have not died. I would be leaving out an acknowledgement of the many successes that have sprouted among my many failures. I would be leaving out the blessing of good health, the joy of walking in the sunshine. I would be leaving out my faith that the goodness in man will triumph eventually over the evil that causes war.

All these things are as much a part of my world as the darker worries that shade them. The conflict of good and bad merges in thick entanglement. You cannot isolate virtue and beauty and success and laughter, and keep them from all contact with wickedness and ugliness and failure and weeping. The man who strives for such isolated joy is riding for a fall. He will wind up in isolated gloom.

I don’t believe anyone can enjoy living in this world unless he can accept its imperfection. He must know and admit that he is imperfect, that all other mortals are imperfect, that it is childish to allow these imperfections to destroy all his hope and all his desire to live. Nature is older than man, and she is still far from perfect. Her summers do not always start promptly on June 21st. Her bugs and beetles and other insects often go beyond her obvious intentions, devouring the leaves and buds with which she has adorned her countryside. After the land has remained too dry for too long, she sends relieving rains. But frequently they come in torrents so violent that they do more harm than good. Over the years, however, nature keeps going on in her imperfect way, and the result—in spite of her many mistakes—is a continuing miracle. It would be folly for an individual to seek to do better—to do better than to go on in his own imperfect way, making his mistakes, riding out the rough and bewildering, exciting and beautiful, storm of life until the day he dies.

Psalm 145:3 “Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”

Yesterday our small town buried one of my neighbors. The man was widely respected and prominent in our community. One of my daughters had, in times past babysat for their children and was honored in being asked to provide the music for his service. Needless to say, she did her daddy proud. One of her selections was an all-time favorite: “How Great Thou Art” Hearing her sing it reminded me again of how much I love this classic.

This week’s Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs selection was translated from Swedish By Stuart K Hine and made popular by Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team during the latter part of the last century. An excerpt from suite101.com explains the origins of the original nine stanza poem.

The original Swedish text was a poem entitled “O Store Gud,” written in 1886 by a Swedish preacher Carl Boberg, a successful editor of the periodical Sanningsvittnet. Boberg’s inspiration for “How Great Thou Art” came from a visit to a beautiful country estate on the southeast coast of Sweden. “He got caught in a midday thunderstorm with awe-inspiring moments of flashing violence, followed by a clear brilliant sun. Soon afterwards he heard the calm, sweet songs of the birds in nearby trees.”

The experience prompted Boberg to “fall to his knees in humble adoration of his mighty God.” A nine-stanza poem beginning with the Swedish words “O Store Gud, nar jag den varld beskader” captured his exaltation of how great God is.

Years later, while attending a gathering in the Province of Varmländ, Boberg was surprised to hear the congregation sing his poem to the tune of an old Swedish melody.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

“To ev’ry captive soul…A full deliverance…”

“For a long time people had been crying out for a deeper walk with God. Now it had come and people were so excited about it. They would sing for a while, and then those who had been filled with the Holy Ghost would get up and tell about it, and how wonderful it was. After some testimonies, someone would preach and tell what God had promised. Then it would start all over again, and go on almost all night. If anyone was hungry, they would leave for something to eat and then return as soon as possible.

They would meet early in the morning and start singing. They had no songbook and no piano. But, oh, what singing! One of their main songs was, ‘The Comforter Has Come.’

Excerpt of an eye witness account about the Azuza Street Revival of 1914 by S. Henry McGowan

This week’s Psalms Hymns and Spiritual Songs selection was written well over a century ago by Frank Bottomy and has recently been revived by the Jars Of Clay singing group.

‘The Comforter Has Come’ is another song that I had memorized in my youth and often sang loudly above the noise of the tractor as I worked out in the fields.

The Comforter Has Come

O spread the tidings ’round, wherever man is found,
Wherever human hearts and human woes abound;
Let ev’ry Christian tongue proclaim the joyful sound:
The Comforter has come!


The Comforter has come, the Comforter has come!
The Holy Ghost from Heav’n, the Father’s promise giv’n;
O spread the tidings ’round, wherever man is found—
The Comforter has come!

The long, long night is past, the morning breaks at last,
And hushed the dreadful wail and fury of the blast,
As o’er the golden hills the day advances fast!
The Comforter has come!


Lo, the great King of kings, with healing in His wings,
To ev’ry captive soul a full deliverance brings;
And through the vacant cells the song of triumph rings;
The Comforter has come!


O boundless love divine! How shall this tongue of mine
To wond’ring mortals tell the matchless grace divine—
That I, a child of hell, should in His image shine!
The Comforter has come!


Frank Bottomy 1890

Marlene woke up yesterday morning quietly singing a Bill and Gloria Gaither prayer/song. I love my partner’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. I am blest by the way she often ministers to my greatest need. (Even if she, for the moment, detours where I was going with this week’s Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs.)

Our community is in mourning. A prominent person somehow committed a ‘comedy of errors.’ Six lives were ripped out of the fabric of who we were. By the time the last act was finished there were no curtain calls and a vast audience was left holding the emotional bag of pain, sorrow and confusion. Not personally acquainted, we were yet somehow affected. Somehow, the tentacles of grief radiate outward until they reach every one of our lives. Paul said that no one ‘lives or dies to themselves.’


To speak or not to speak! And if I choose to speak, must I choose between words that are harsh and words that sound like Pollyanna?


And then comes the gentle reminder: “There’s no other, we can turn to…”


Gentle Shepherd

(Written by: W & G Gaither

Gentle Shepherd,
Come and lead us,
For we need you,
To help us find our way,

Gentle Shepherd,
Come and feed us,
For we need,
Your strength from day to day,

There’s no other,
We can turn to,
Who can help us face another day,

Gentle Shepherd,
Come and lead us,
For we need you,
To help us find our way.

Marlene and I started the day with music: Old hymns sang around the Piano. Right now the CD changer is set to “shuffle all” and serving up a virtual smörgåsbord. Josh Grobin, Joseph Hadin (inst), Randy Travis, Sarah Groves, World voyage (inst); some of our treasures, “things old and new.”

What’s playing on your machine?

If it be all for nought, for nothingness
At last, why does God make the world so fair?
Why spill this golden splendor out across
The western hills, and light the silver lamp
Of eve? Why give me eyes to see, the soul
To love so strong and deep? Then, with a pang
This brightness stabs me through, and wakes within
Rebellious voice to cry against all death?
Why set this hunger for eternity
To gnaw my heartstrings through, if death ends all?
If death ends all, then evil must be good,
Wrong must be right, and beauty ugliness.
God is a Judas who betrays his Son
And, with a kiss, damns all the world to hell–
If Christ rose not again.

–Unknown Soldier, killed in World War I
(From The Life of Christ in Poetry, comp. Hazel Davis Clark)


A couple of weeks ago I made a day trip to St Louis. Each such trip always leads me through Pike County, Missouri and the place of my childhood. It seems that the new, four-lane Avenue of the Saints somehow can’t bypass the flood of memories which that area of the world holds for me. One of those memories resides firmly at Peno Creek, north of Bowling Green.


Our family had been invited to join some area Pentecostals at a baptism service. It was perhaps my first non-Amish baptism service. Peno Creek, just west of highway 61, flows between a limestone cliff on the north and a farmer’s field on the south. In this setting, we gather on the banks and the minister leads the candidates into the river. Standing out there in the water the minister gives the charge: Waving his hand toward the rock face at his one hand and the corn field at his other; he admonishes those he is about to baptize to maintain a “faith as strong as a rock and as fruitful as a cornfield.”


The imagery of that day engrained itself deeply into my young mind. I think about that sermonette every time I attend a baptism service. Yes; and every time I cross Peno Creek in Pike County, Missouri.


Jonas J. Borntreger

Easter 2008